Vancouver women’s shelters don’t help all women
By Jillian McMullen, Staff Writer
The legacy of second wave feminism endangers the bodies of all women.
Second-wave feminism was characterized by a broadening of issues addressed past feminism’s initial preoccupation with suffrage. According to Gabriele Griffin’s definition in A Dictionary of Gender Studies, published by Oxford University Press, this largely included demands for equal pay for equal work, access to abortions and “the acknowledgment and prosecution of sexual harassment, rape in marriage, and domestic violence.” This final demand spurred the establishment of women’s safe spaces like shelters and crisis centres. While I can’t argue the altruistic motives of these shelters, I can argue whether they truly help all women.
One of the main issues afflicting feminism today is the in-fighting among feminists on the issue of trans rights. Many radical second-wave feminists—colloquially called TERFs, for trans-exclusionary radical feminists—claimed that because trans women “aren’t born women,” they cannot understand the kind of subjection “real” women experience. This thought process is echoed in many of Vancouver’s shelters’ refusal to provide resources to trans women.
Vancouver Rape Relief and Crisis Center spoke before the Senate this past May to provide their input on Bill C-16, which will add gender identity and gender expression to the list of illegal forms of discrimination. According to one of its members, as quoted in a CBC report, they “are worried that this well-intentioned legislation will be used to undermine the rights of women and the crucial work of women’s groups.”
I would argue the exact opposite. Qualifying to what degree trans women belong to their gender identity is incredibly irresponsible, especially if the goal of your organization is to help women escape violence. Trans people are at a proportionately higher risk for violence than any other LGBTQ+ demographic. According to a report on violence against lesbian, bisexual, and trans women completed by Egale Canada Human Rights Trust, about 20 per cent of Ontario’s trans community has experienced violent physical or sexual assault for being trans.
Considering this violence, I think that claiming that these women have “chosen” their identities—as many TERFs do—is frankly ridiculous. Who consciously chooses a life that society constantly assaults, both literally and figuratively? To publicly state that fellow citizens should not be protected from discrimination under the law is not only disgusting, but it is what is truly working to undermine the important work of women’s groups, and feminism as a whole. Leave second-wave ideology where it’s meant to be—in the past.